Dom Carter discovers how the path to creativity is seldom linear at TYPO Berlin 2017
We report on wanderlust from TYPO Berlin, get sporty at thread and preview One Year On at New Designers
Taking over the House of World Cultures once again, this year’s TYPO Berlin had five stages and multiple workshop spaces – and was also accompanied by some apparently contractual good weather. The three-day event was centered around the idea of ‘wanderlust’, and boasted a suitably diverse array of speakers from around the world, many of whom had careers spanning various disciplines.
War journalist Susanne Koelbl kicked things off with her take on wanderlust – that people leave their comfort zones in pursuit of happiness and better opportunities, allowing the audience to draw their own connections with design.
This humanitarian thread was picked up by Pearlfisher’s Jonathan Ford, who challenged attendees with the claim that “designers have become lazy,” adding that as an industry, we’re “immune to the consequences of what we’re creating.” He urged the audience to “use passion and belief and science and art” to build a better world that will benefit everyone.
For Typotheque founder Peter Bil’ak, the fact that design skills can be applied to many different contexts is the best thing about being a designer. Through a career that’s involved creating innovative floor tiles and choreographing contemporary dances, he has realised that received wisdom about what makes good design isn’t necessarily true. Challenging the idea that good work is always defined in relation to commerce, he instead argued that “good design benefits all involved parties”.
Day two was about branding, and legendary designer and brand consultant Michael Johnson lead the way with a talk that focused on the human connection at the core
of branding. “Defining how your brand feels is very important,” said Johnson. “You need to talk as a person, not an organisation.”
Running through his approach to branding (and blessing the venue with copies of his book Branding: In Five and a Half Steps), Johnson emphasised the need to investigate a brand’s context and define why it needs to exist. “If you can’t tell people why you’re here, you’re in trouble,” he stated.
Elsewhere, designer and artist Dominic Wilcox shook up the idea of normality with a presentation of how his unusual inventions, including a helmet that scoops cereal into the wearer’s mouth, have encouraged children to bring their imaginations to life and settle on career aspirations. “What you can read from this type of thinking… I don’t know,” he confessed.
Erik Kessels, maverick creative director of KesselsKramer, utilised a similar sense of fun in his talk on day three. Drawing a huge crowd and bigger laughs, his presentation charted a career that has seen him designing advertising campaigns for awful hotels and the famous (and often imitated) I Amsterdam typographic landmark.
Mistakes were the thrust of his talk, with Kessels pointing out that “creative people are professional clowns,” and that they should embrace their errors. Working in advertising is arguably a mistake for Kessels, as he admitted he hates the industry. However, he reminded the audience of TYPO Berlin 2017’s theme as a reassurance that there’s always an escape route when things go wrong. “As a creative,” he said, “you can cross over to a lot of different disciplines.”
Clockwise from far left: Attendees gather outside the House of World Cultures; Peter Bil’ak explains why design is an interdisciplinary skill; Jonathan Ford on the ethical impact of creative work; Erik Kessels urges the audience to embrace their mistakes.
PHOTOGRAPHY ABOVE AND BELOW: Gerhard Kassner / Monotype